This is a direct response to a couple of comments on my Instagram feed...because there are just so many answers. One of the many downsides of any kind of online communications is that you can't hear my tone of voice, and I can't see your reactions. As a teacher by nature, this is a MASSIVE handicap for me. I speak authoritatively, with a good side of sarcasm, and I depend on seeing the facial expressions of my students to help me decide if I got my point/lesson across.
So, that being said, I NEVER talk down to anyone or speak as if I believe you're stupid, so if my words "seem" condescending - they really aren't - if I were speaking those same words to you, you'd hear that it's not a bad tone of voice.
The comment I got was about needing help starting to write a book. Here comes the teacher voice!
Just Write. And Read.
Seriously, it's that easy and that hard. No one else on the planet can help you start to become a writer. It's 100% up to you. Just like the picture I posted on Instagram of my daughter painting, you either can't live without writing, or you can. It's your decision. Take this post, for instance. I should probably be writing my books, BUT, I Am Writing, am I not? This counts. Outlining a book, researching traits, locations, ideas...and then writing in a notebook whatever makes you sit up and take notice...
To be an author, write. And read. And write more.
That's ALL considered writing. I've written particularly gory scenes that will never see the light of day because that's not the kind of author I am. But you know what? I needed to let loose on some anger and just writing the violence and swear words exorcised them from my mind and calmed me.
Write. Everyday. Something. Anything.
If you are not reading prolifically, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your future readers. Just like singers, authors have individual voices. This includes vocabulary, grammar, and style...all of which coalesce into your unique voice. Natural talent only goes so far, in any area of life...being an author is no exception.
Reading is the BEST way to narrow down what kind of voice you want. For example, I am not a fan of first person, so I ignore most of the stylistic approaches to writing that it uses. Another example, I hate Ernest Hemingway's novels, but I love his short stories. Jack London is another favorite author, but then, Shakespeare is the Boss. Jane Austen doesn't have a bad book, some are better than others, but nothing sucks. I devoured Michael Crichton's every book in college, and since about 2011/12, I've read over 6,000 books on my Kindle app and iBooks app (and no, I'm not exaggerating).
Why is reading that important? Everything I have ever read helped me to decide my own style and my own voice. I don't like using lots of descriptions, even in my historicals. I LOVE dialogue that moves the plot and action along. These were choice I made knowing I was making them. My voice is natural, as is my ability, but honing it to where I am now, was not by accident. Everything I have read in the past few years keeps me up to date on: shifting writing rules - the Oxford comma is no more; trends in genres- YA is in 1st person a lot; how I choose what I release and when...
Editors are the last thing any aspiring author needs. You have to have something written to show them! Helpful resources include: local writing groups who are open to newbies, FB writing groups (some are better at helping than others), friends who are willing to take you to task for crap writing.
Write. Just Write.
And then, when you have something...doesn't even have to be finished but I would recommend having it finished...THAT is when you go looking online at the myriad lists of "How To's" on where to publish, how to publish, where to find editors and publishers...realizing that there are a bajillion scams out there. (If you found a good group of writers willing to take on newbies, this information should come from them first.)
And never stop. Always Write. Always Read. Never stop learning, doing better, asking questions To The Right People (so many are clueless so be careful whose advice you listen to)...No One, not even the top tier authors ever stop honing, researching, and learning. Writing is no longer for the elite, people, and with the digital revolution only getting faster, writing is not going to stay static. Rules change. Technology changes writing. Readers' opinions change writing.
Go forth and find, follow, and fan girl your favorite Indie authors. Why Indie? Easy. We rely 100% on our own PR and our interactions online. We don't have Random House behind us, so many of us freely talk about our ideas, how we find things, where to look.
So. Just Write. And Read. And Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time.